News from Celtic Press
Welsh Olympic men’s football players sparked further controversy for themselves on Wednesday (25th July 2012) when they refused to sing the English national anthem, much to the disgrace of their supporters.
All four football players, Ryan Giggs, Craig Bellamy, Joe Allen and Neil Taylor, chose not to sing the God Save the Queen English national anthem, despite voluntarily putting themselves forward to play football for the GB team during the Olympics. Giggs chose not to sing the anthem even though he agreed to captain the team, which is made up of Welsh and English players only.
All five Welsh members of the 2012 GB Olympic football team initially caused outcry when they declared an interest in being part of the team, in spite of the Football Associations of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales writing a joint letter to the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) stating that they would not participate in the Games. In the letter the different Football Associations stated that that they would have no objection to English only players being selected for the GB team, which was challenged by the British Olympic Association (BOA) who argued that they wanted players on the team from all four Football Association (FA) nations, because they thought selecting English players only for a GB team may be discriminatory. The English FA then announced that it would proceed to select non – English players from Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, but was only able to attract the five Welsh players that are currently on the GB team.
Football supporters from Wales have severely criticised the Welsh players for accepting the invitation to be part of the GB team, with some current and previous Welsh national football players also criticising the move. Former Welsh international footballer Neville Southall said about the involvement of Welsh players in the GB team:
“What flag are they going to put up if they win? The Union Jack? It’s not my flag. My flag’s a dragon.”
Others believe that the participation of players in the GB team threaten the football identity of the participating countries and this was one of the main objections of the different FA’s in the Celtic countries of players participating in the Olympic team. 2012 Olympic Games director, Seb Coe, has continually voiced his support for the participation of the other FA nations in the GB team and the BOA are believed to be furious by the refusal of the Welsh players to sing the English anthem. However, GB football coach Stuart Pearce said that whether players sing the anthem or not is a personal choice.
The Welsh male GB football team were not the only ones to spark an Olympic furore among English fans by not singing their anthem, because Scottish female football players Kim Little and Ifeoma Dieke also refused to sing the anthem during their opening match against New Zealand on Wednesday. Little argued that it was a ‘personal choice’ of her not to sing the anthem, because she was Scottish.
Other countries in Europe, like Brittany, Basque Country and Catalonia, have looked on in envy as Scotland and Wales have been able to compete internationally in their own national teams, while Bretons, Basques and Catalans have had no choice other than to don Spanish and French shirts and sing the national anthems of those states if they want experience on the international stage.
The refusal of the Scottish and Welsh players to sing the English anthem will hopefully cause a wider debate on the relevance of Irish, Scottish and Welsh people competing for Olympic GB teams in the future. The Celtic League believes that all of the Celtic countries should have the right to compete in the Olympic Games with their own national teams in order to maximise the benefits to the different nations that this would bring. As early as 2008 the Celtic League commented in its written contribution to the Scottish Government’s consultation ‘Pathways into Sport’:
“We feel that the 2012 Olympics, hosted in London, has already diverted all too many resources away from Scotland, which would be better spent here. The lack of a Scottish Olympic team only exacerbates this situation.”
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